“A History of Origami” by Bob Hicok
Published in The New Yorker 10/19/09. (The original layout of the poem isn’t preserved when copied. To see it in its original form go here.) xo, m
two women in three days
cried on the green bench in the park
where i found a dollar
folded into a boat.
i thought it was the crying bench and cried
on the crying bench
when it became available.
by thinking of all the people
who’ve never broken a shop window, not the baker’s
window, the bead-seller’s,
who sells beads for purposes
i find hard to list: necklaces,
the hanging of strings of beads
in doorways, the owning of beads
just in case.
breaking a shop window with a piece of shale
the size of my heart, a piece of shale
on which i’ve drawn my heart, not my actual heart
but my feelings of my heart,
since i’ve never seen my heart,
would set something free.
i don’t know what that something is
but it would be free.
and my heart would have survived its travels
through glass, its jagged voyage
through my reflection.
you see now why i cried: none of this is real.
until i can answer yes to the cop who asks, is this your heart
among the ruins of your reflection?
i won’t be a man, despite what my anatomy
that i overcome a sense of resistance when i move,
that i move
as long as i am able to move, and when i am unable
to move, that i stop.
it would be free and look like a bird, an actual bird
or a dollar folded into a bird, a dollar bird
in a dollar boat.
which is to say
i believe origami arrives
when we need it most.
i can’t prove this but i can’t prove
you’re a good person though i suspect
you’re a good person.
you who opened the door.
you who tipped your hat.
you who ran into the fire and carried
the fire safely out.